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These 33 projects tackle diversity in local news

Today we are announcing an important list of projects selected for the second round of the Google News Initiative’s North American Innovation Challenge. The challenges are meant to encourage a spirit of experimenting, and quite simply, trying new things. It is especially important this year to tackle innovative ideas, and the 33 projects we’re funding look at diversity, equity and inclusion through many different lenses, all focused around the communities they serve.

The Innovation Challenge received 215 applications from the US and Canada, and will fund 33 projects totaling $5.9 million.

We selected Ryerson University in Canada for JeRI: The Journalism Representation Index, an AI-powered tool that scores the institutional power of sources cited in news stories. “In this time of great change it’s really important as journalists that we ensure the stories we report on reflect a diversity of voices,” says Asmaa Malik, Associate professor at Ryerson University. “With JERI our hope is that we can rebuild trust with readers and offer them transparency into the process.” 

Our team selected The Houston Defender for their efforts in business transformation. Sonny Messiah-Jiles, the Defender’s CEO, says the Innovation Challenge “opens the doors of opportunity for us to combat undercapitalization, limited access to new technology and resources and expand our training of our staff. We’re striving to make sure we arrive where our audience wants us to be.” 

The Educational Video Center in New York pitched an idea to develop the infrastructure to distribute and monetize youth-produced documentary films from EVC’s digitized archive of over 200 short films. “Youth voices are underrepresented in mainstream media and important news stories are not being told,” says Ambreen Quresh, the group’s executive director. “To address this EVC will create the first of its kind B2B video licensing platform for mainstream media to acquire youth-produced documentary shorts and clips.”

Other recipients include Vox Media, which is creating a comprehensive, inclusive open-sourced style guide and editing resources designed to recognize bias in storytelling. The Local Media Foundation is creating Word in Black, a national news collaborative that is powered by 10 of the leading Black publishers. Save the Black Press, a project from Black Voice News in California, will create a data access portal, content discovery platform and resource support model for generating revenue and innovating content at black news organizations.

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